Post-Ides

18 03 2009

All the chickens have been consolidated in the coop in the field.  No more having to collect eggs from two different places.  Soon we are going to get another 25 pullets to add to this chicken palace after they grow into hens.  Somehow, we managed to lose 3 chickens when combining the two coops.  Well, shit.

The field is looking sandy.  But good nonetheless.  The drip irrigation lines are being laid down in their respective spots.  A flawless irrigation set up this year would be a blessing.  It is only a slightly more educated guess than last year.  It really looks like we could grow stuff well here.

Got some big lights to get a jump on our tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.  We need to get our tomatillo seeds in the mail soon so we can plant them for transplant.

More drip line action.  More sandy ass soil.

BEAR CRAWL.  Hope she does the crab next!

Also, hailing from the Greater Chicagoland area, Tim has joined our outfit this growing season.  He lives in the garage.  Don’t get us started about the garage.

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February Chaos.

10 02 2009

So on Friday I met up with local farmer, Chris Jagger, owner/operator of Blue Fox Farm in the Applegate Valley. I spoke with him briefly about the greenhouse that he was installing. This is his fifth greenhouse that he has erected, and with contractor background he has a lot more practical experience with this sort of thing.
Since the debacle of putting up my greenhouse last year, and this year’s major corrections to it, I used this chance to learn and relate my mistakes to someone with expertise. Chris and I chatted it up, and it was relieving to hear that he had dealt with a lot of the problems that I encountered. Problems such as the baseboards on the greenhouse, endcaps, leveling, why the prefabricated holes never line up, and just the general process of getting the greenhouse structurally sound.
Now I just need to get my hands on another greenhouse frame so I can practice what I have learned.
After this pleasant chat, I went to the Enchanted Forest. Oolala. It was actually a really nice old growth forest. Luckily it was near the vineyards. After a brief hike, I met Gabrielle at her place of work for a nip of port. I watched Sadie till Gabrielle was ready to leave.

It was actually oh so nice on Saturday, as compared to right now. It is snowing. Lee helped me get the tiller working. We really need a bigger tiller, but all we have is a 5hp walk behind. It struggles with the fescue grass that grows in very tight clumps. We really need a tractor to get this initial till underway this year, but this small one is all we have at the moment. We are creating a new flower bed, a wildflower/cover crop bed, and extending all our rows from last year by at least 20 ft. Some rows will be extended up to 40 ft just to even things out a bit.
It has been extremely dry this winter, and that gave me the opportunity to till up a new 4ft wide by 130ft long bed for tomatoes. After a painfully slow process with our small tiller, I limed the soil to add calcium and balance the pH, and then I planted more crimson clover.
The soil that I tilled up looked really good. It is closer to a big pine in the middle of our field and there is a more noticeable amount of organic matter in the soil. It has a darker richer color than the soil in other parts of our field.
We really need to start planting. We just haven’t had the mojo yet. Sadie doesn’t want to sleep. And on Sunday shit went a little bit crazy to say the least.
So Sunday was nice. Gabe was at work, I was watching Sadie the whole day. Sadie sleeps seldom, and it takes incredible patience to get her down for a reasonable amount of time. As she slept I handed the monitor over to Kirby, and went out to do some chores. When I checked on the goats, something was terribly wrong with Rodeo, our male Boer goat.
He was twitching, shaking, and could barely stand. I really did not know what to do. No friggin idea. I am generally kind to animals, and this poor goat was no exception. He was in bad shape, and if it was up to me, and I owned a gun, or I knew of a humane way to kill a goat I would have done that immediately. I do not own a gun, and I do not know how to painlessly euthanize a goat.
However, it was WAY more complicated than that. I have on many occasions wished death upon our two goats because of their annoying behavior, and the focus of the farm was not coherent with adequate care of these goats. The goats under no conditions were to be killed because when Gabe and Ben obtained them from a rescue, they signed a contract not to kill them. I did not sign it, but I honored that contract.
Before the shit went down over the weekend, and after much internal debate we decided to return the goats to their previous owners. We would not get our money refunded, but we learned a valuable lesson that we had no time for large animals on our farm (yet). The owners were going to find a new home for the goat pair. They were going to pick the pair up today and deliver to a new owner. One side note, goats are easier to sell/give as a pair because a herd mentality promotes good health among them.
Back to Sunday; I really had no experience in goat health, and I did not know what my next options were because I was required not to kill this goat. I got a hold of Ben and Gabe to ask for ideas on what to do. They had little to no help for me. I proceeded to call the previous owners about the status of the goat they were rehoming for us. The were alarmed about his health, but I do not think that they understood what was actually happening. Rodeo was dying.
He went from being healthy on Saturday, to barely able to stand on Sunday. I kept the previous owners in the loop about his health, but know one knew what was really going on. They were sure he would snap out the state he was in, but both Dr. Calvert and I had serious doubts. We both saw that Rodeo needed to be put down.
Sunday night I tried calling emergency vets to no avail. I carried Rodeo’s unstable body up to the covered porch so he would not get rained on. He was in pain, and barely conscious. At this point I think that was inhumane to keep him alive. But we wanted to return the two healthy goats. By the look of things that was just not going to happen.

We woke up Monday, Rodeo was still alive.  He was worse.  He looked like he wanted to die.  I avoided him all day, and made Gabrielle check on him.  The optimism of the previous owners was hard to combat over the phone,  they said, “he will just snap out of it, goats can go from looking really bad to fine in no time.  All they need sometimes is a shot or two.”  The goat was miserable.  Dr. Calvert said he was seizuring more.  All from being perfectly normal on Saturday.  All Monday we looked for  a vet to treat him.  We finally got a local vet who had a good knowledge of goats, our appointment was at 5:20.  Until then, Rodeo suffered, and I sympathized.  It seemed like I should have done more.  During all of Sunday and Monday Sadie screamed and would not sleep.  It was extremely stressful.

When the time came  around to go to the vet, we had to pick Rodeo’s seizuring body up and put it in the back of our station wagon.  On the way there Rodeo had a nice rain shower, a rainbow, and beautiful sky over the mountains.  His seizures were long and frequent.  The vet advised us to put him to sleep.  We did just that.  We communicated to the previous owners of Rodeo and Blossom that Rodeo was put down, and they were in complete shock.  Gabrielle and I were beat.

We don’t know what happened to Rodeo, but the onset was so quick.  We didn’t know how to treat him, and we had to draw the line somewhere on whether to save him.  He was not our pet, he was just a goat to us.  Now we need to regroup, put Sadie to bed, receive our soil blocker in the mail, and start bringing plants to life.





Sunday 1/18

18 01 2009

The rhubarb is in the ground. It is in the ground.  Hoooray!!  The crowns that we got were huge, and hopefully they will produce equally large rhubarb plants.  After much thought we (I, Chad)  decided on putting them in a 120 ft row.  The rhubarb is spaced at about 4 ft apart in a linear row.  All around the rhubarb along the 4 ft wide bed, we are going to plant strawberries.  It is going to be pie aka church aka kosher.

Hopefully, tomorrow we are going to get some strawberry runners from Lori Campell.  We also have to thin out our strawberry patches as well.

Planting the rhubarb was the first time we got to play in the soil this year.  Last year before we started this shenanigan of a farm, we added a total of 60 cu ft of compost to our fields.  After decomposing most of year, the soil looks black, and healthy.  There are lots of organisms running around in the soil.  It is also light and fluffy.  Healthy soil is the key to healthy plants, and it is going to be good year.

Now, for coming years we have to maintain the integrity of our soil by continually adding compost, manure, green manure, and mulch to the soil in our version of what may be called no-till agriculture and lasagna planting.  And tending to the soil, and soil life all ties back to sustainablity.  Actually, sustainability of the soil, land, and earth just might as well be the keystone of organic farming





Finally Spring Maybe

29 04 2008

As our first season gears up for vegetable farming, we are all feeling overwhelmed at the never ending list of things that need to be done around here. Being idle for a moment is painstaking because even when our bodies get a chance to slump over, our minds race over the what needs to be done.

Less complaining more farming. Spring is here, wildflowers bloom. Vegetables will grow as well. Our first field/garden is off to a magnificent start, which can only be blessed by the addition of an irrigation system.

This is what I more or less have on my mind today:

Composting.

Composting is more of less the act of creating organic matter in a quicker more controlled manner in order to amend the soil. Composting happens as natural decay in a balanced ecosystem. So as we breach the tender ecosystem by having a farm, soil looses its stability and therefore its ability to birth healthy plants. Therefore we need to return to the land what we have taken away. We can recreate the organic matter beneficial to plants through composting organic/living materials such as kitchen scraps, chicken litter, horse manure, newspaper, weeds, garden refuse, and more. Composting can be done in a more controlled environment to promote proper decay, so we can add the most stability back into the soil.

Use of compost is necessary ingredient of a sustainable farm. Therefore creating compost on site, is the next logical step if we are to pursue sustainability. Being able to produce all the needed compost on site, to be able to correctly amend our soil every year to be able to produce the healthiest crops will be a keystone, a fundamental, and and important example for future farming.

Spring now, but Fall with its decay of the landscape is a most important lesson to carry with our presence on this farm. How do I go about simulating a perpetual decay so there will be enough or an abundance of usable compost? What kind of systems, given the ingredients and tools that are available, can be developed to provide all the compost I need to build a healthy soil?

Where can I forage for more ingredients to increase the amount of compost? Would green manures be an important part of the composting process?

What kind of tools and structures can be had to have more efficient composting? What kind of composting method would be most suitable to our specific farm needs? What are the most efficient ways to stay up to date with organic standards for composting in case we decide to become organic?

How can composting be annually planned so that there is more compost when soil amending is most necessary? Will there be enough compost for seed starts in early spring? How much compost will be needed to add the soil before planting in spring? Will there be enough compost for the greenhouse? Compost to be used as mulch in both summer and fall? Are these all the applications where compost is going to be needed? Quantitatively, how can this all be planned? What are the numbers, say in cubic yards of compost do I need to make annually? How can this be measured and adjusted for farm expansion?

What other methods of organic soil amendment besides composting can be used along side of compost to add other necessary features to boost plant production? Cover crops as green manure, as mulch, nitrogen fixers, and weed suppressors? Vermiculture bins to make worm castings? Uses of different teas and tonics?

Just thinking about it.